Our experience at California’s hippest course had the From the Clubhouse team wondering if more clubs in the UK should prioritise having a good time

Goat Hill Park is a social media sensation. The California course is trendy, celebrity-backed, and all about one thing: fun.

The golf is great but it’s not terribly serious. And you might spend as much time lapping up the vibe in the bar as you will out on the oceanside course.

On the From the Clubhouse podcast, Tom Irwin recounted his recent visit to the 9-hole layout, shelling out the princely sum of $20 for a green fee, and the conversation quickly moved on to whether a venue like that could be a success in the UK.

“By the 7th or 8th hole we were all just having a good time,” he said. “It’s quick. It’s about 4,500 yards so it’s not taking you all day to get round. We played a round of golf after having done a full day’s work.

“It was cool. A lot of the holes are good. There are different ways to play them. You can hit little shapes and try and take on doglegs or you can lay it up. They’ve got very small greens and the elevation change and the views are unbelievable.

“It made you realise that golf is supposed to be fun, right? That was the big takeaway. You do wonder whether a facility like that would stick in the UK. Does it need the weather to be good?

Goat Hill Park

“What it needs is to be short and quick and easy for people to get on. Their motto is world class and working class, which I absolutely love as a strapline and I think it’s this idea that something can be good but it doesn’t have to cost a fortune and it doesn’t have to come with a lot of pomp and ceremony. That’s not something we’re especially good at.”

I recounted a recent trip to a former club, where the bar was rocking on a Friday afternoon and wondered whether, for me, the atmosphere and the social connections made in the bar afterwards were as important as the course itself – no matter how great the layout is.

But I also pointed out that, especially in the case of private members’ clubs, what was most important in the UK was providing what those members wanted – and making sure the experience lived up to their expectations.

“If you went into a private members’ club, I would a lot of the members would be very satisfied with what was provided at the club. It’s what they want.

“Given that they own it, what they want is paramount. Now what they want might not necessarily be what I want from a facility but then I have the choice. I can decide whether I want to take that or not.

“So as much as I’d like every golf course in the UK to be like Goat Hill, I suppose the key consideration is: is it delivering what the members are asking for and, if they’re happy, then that’s probably the most important thing.”

from the clubhouse podcast

What do you think? Let us know with a tweet. To hear the whole debate, and how complexes like the R&A’s new Golf It facility in Glasgow are aiming to change the game even further, listen to the From the Clubhouse podcast.

More podcasts from National Club Golfer

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 23 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former captain and committee member, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the national Tournament Administrators and Referee's Seminar. He has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying and the PGA Fourball Championship. A member of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. Steve is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade Stealth 2 3-Wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Hybrids: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Irons: TaylorMade Stealth 5-A Wedge Wedges: TaylorMade Hi-Toe 54 and 58 Putter: Sik Sho Ball: TaylorMade TP5

Handicap: 11.3

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